For Immediate Release
August 21, 2018
CONTACT: CONTACT: Lana Lee, (973) 643-3876 (office) |(609) 651-5855 (cell) | firstname.lastname@example.org
2018 New Jersey Kids Count County Rankings reveal disparities in child well‐being across state
Outcomes for children should not depend on their zip code, but for too many New Jersey children, that is the reality, according to the annual New Jersey Kids Count county rankings and profiles released today by Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ). Statewide, the child poverty rate held steady at 15 percent, with mixed progress in the areas of health and supports for parents with young children.
Morris and Somerset Counties claimed the top spot among all New Jersey counties in family economics as well as safety and well-being, while southern counties - Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem ranked in the bottom seven in these domains. Ocean County, with its comparatively low rates of uninsured children and babies born with low birth weights, ranked first in health while Warren County ranked last. Hunterdon County ranked first in the state for education; Cumberland County landed at the bottom.
The rankings, which compare counties on 12 measures of child well-being, and across four domains – economics, health, safety and well-being, and education – provide a closer look at how children are faring in various parts of the state. The pocket guide—New Jersey Kids Count 2018: The State of Our Counties—also released today, provides a multiyear comparison of county-by-county child trend data across 42 measures of child well-being.
“Once again, the data shows different conditions for children living in each county, often revealing a range of outcomes depending on where they live,” said Cecilia Zalkind, ACNJ president and CEO. “We hope local, county and state leaders, as well as the general public, will use this comprehensive data book to identify areas of concern and develop solutions to improve the lives of children in their own backyard.”
New Jersey families continued to grapple with high rent burdens, ranging from 42 percent in Morris County to 57 percent in Cumberland County of households spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent. In 2016, Hunterdon and Somerset families earned a median income of more than $148,000 - more than three times the median income of Cumberland County households at $42,300.
“Roughly two-thirds of children, ages 0 to 5, had all parents in the labor force, meaning access to quality early learning environments is critical,” Zalkind said. “Between 2013 and 2017, the state saw a slight decline in the number of licensed child care centers as well as preschool enrollment.”
Median costs for center-based child care in New Jersey ranged from $161 to $304 a week for an infant and $160 to $275 a week for a toddler. For low-income, working families who rely on subsidies to afford child care, only 12 percent of licensed centers had prices that met the subsidy rate for infant care and 19 percent for center-based toddler care. In ten counties, 5 percent or fewer of center-based, infant care prices were affordable with a child care subsidy: Bergen, Burlington, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Somerset and Sussex--with Hunterdon and Sussex having no availability.
Teen births were down and fewer children were without health insurance, but the state also saw substantial declines in the percentage of children under 6 years old tested for the presence of lead in their blood. The percentage of children tested in 2016 ranged from 7 percent in Gloucester to 41 percent in Essex, compared to New Jersey’s 27 percent.
Child and Family Economics. Despite progress in New Jersey’s unemployment rate and median family income, 15 percent of the Garden State’s nearly 2 million children live in poverty, defined as earning just over $24,000 for a family of four. Hunterdon, Morris and Somerset topped the list for the lowest percentages of child poverty at 6 percent or below, compared to Cumberland, Passaic and Salem, which had at least a quarter of their children in poverty.
Child Health. Hunterdon, Morris and Ocean received the highest rankings for child health, while Warren placed last in this domain followed by Cumberland. New Jersey’s rate of uninsured children at 3.5 percent is at an all time low. Warren and Hudson Counties, however, ranked last on this indicator with 6.4 percent of children without health insurance.
Education. With just 4 to 6 percent of their student population chronically absent and a high school graduation rate at or above 94 percent, Bergen, Morris and Hunterdon ranked in the top three for education. Cumberland and Essex Counties had the highest percentages of chronically absenteeism, with 14 to 16 percent missing at least 10 percent of enrolled school days or just two days a month. New Jersey saw a slight uptick in the graduation rate during the 2016-17 school year at 91 percent, increasing from 90 percent the previous year. Although just half of the state’s children met or exceeded expectations on their third grade English Language Arts PARCC exams, Bergen (66 percent), Hunterdon (60 percent) and Morris County (65 percent) third graders outperformed their peers.
Safety and Well-Being. Ocean, Morris and Somerset took the top spots in this domain. In these counties, less than 7 percent of reported children had substantiated or established cases of child abuse or neglect. Morris and Somerset also had the lowest rates of youth not working and not in school, half the state’s 6 percent. From 2012 to 2016, New Jersey continued to see dramatic declines in all 21 counties for the number of juvenile arrests. Hunterdon County experienced the most significant reduction – by approximately 53 percent.
In addition to the county rankings, Advocates for Children of New Jersey also released its first ever Babies Count: A Statewide Profile of Infants and Toddlers. This report offers a statewide profile of the Garden State’s youngest children and identifies areas for improvement in child well-being.
To read the reports, visit www.acnj.org.
Note, ACNJ omitted school breakfast participation from the education domain this year, replacing it with third grade English Language Arts PARCC results. Due to this change, comparisons should not be made to the 2017 education domain rank.
Kids Count is a national and state‐by‐state statistical effort to track the state of children in the United States, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Advocates for Children of New Jersey is a statewide child research and action organization and the New Jersey Kids Count grantee.